Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Lord Jesus Christ, our God, hear us from Your Holy dwelling place and from the Throne of Glory of Your Kingdom, and come to sanctify us. Though enthroned with the Father on High, yet invisibly present here in our midst, deign by Your Mighty hand to give us a share of Your pure Body and precious Blood, and through us to all Your people. Amen. [The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom]
On January 31st Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Cyrus and John the holy Unmercenaries; Saint Tryphaenes at Cyzicus; Saint Victorinus and his companion holy Martyrs Victor, Necephoros, Claudias, Diodoros, Serapion, and Papias of Egypt; holy Martyrs Athanasia and her dauthers Theoctiste, Theodotia, and Evdoxia in Egypt; Saint Nicetas of the Kiev Caves; Saint Pachomius of Keno Lake; Saint Arsenius of Paros (1877); holy New Martyr Elias of Mt. Athos (1686).
THE HOLY UNMERCENARIES AND WONDERWORKERS CYRUS AND JOHN. These compassionate and wonderful Saints were not blood-brothers, but were brothers in spirit. Saint Cyrus lived at first in Alexandria, and working as a doctor, healed people by the power of Christ together with medicine for the body. Discovering that illness came upon people mainly through sin, he always told them to cleanse their souls from sin by repentance and prayer, that they might be restored and strengthened in body. When the pagan Roman Emperor Diocletian began his persecution of Christians, St. Cyrus went off to Arabia, where he received the Monastic habit. But, as he had become known in Alexandria, so he became known also in Arabia, and people went to him for help. Saint John, hearing of him and being at that time a Roman officer in Edessa, came to Arabia to see St. Cyrus. On seeing each other, they loved each other as brothers and remained together to live in asceticism. At that time, a Christian woman called Athanasia was tortured together with her three daughters in the town of Canopus. Saint Cyrus and Saint John heard of this, and came to Canopus to encourage the mother and daughters not to fall back from the Faith. And, grateful indeed for the counsel of these Saints, Saint Athanasia endured all the tortures and, with her daughters, was slain for Christ. The daughters were: St. Theoctisti, aged 15, St. Theodoti age 13, and St. Evdoxia age 11. Then the torturers took Saint Cyrus and St. John and, after torture and imprisonment, slew them with the sword in 311 A.D. These holy Martyrs performed innumerable miracles, both during their lives and after their death. Their holy relics were translated (Removed) to Rome in the time of the Emperor Arcadios. They are invoked for help especially for the sleepless and for the blessing of water and food.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God. Have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Although the Holy Fathers praised Monasticism as the angelic state, and although many of the greatest Saints spent their lives and achieved perfection in the silent and lifeless desert, nevertheless the Orthodox Church does not recommend monasticism to all the faithful. 'Neither will all those in the desert be saved, not all those in the world be lost', said one Saint to one city-dweller who, without any inclination to monasticism, had made up his mind to go to a monastery. Saint Niphon said: 'My son, a man is neither saved nor lost by the place he is in, but saved or lost by his deeds. Neither a holy place nor a holy state is of use to him who does not fulfill the commandments of the Lord. Saul lived in regal luxury and perished. David lived in like luxury and received the wreath. Lot lived among the lawless Sodomites and was saved. Judas was among the Apostles and went to Hell. Whoever says that it is impossible to be saved with a wife and children is a deceiver. Abraham had a wife and children and three hundred and eighteen servants, and also much gold and silver, and he was called the friend of God! Many servants of the Church have been saved, and many lovers of the desert; many aristocrats, and many soldiers; many craftsmen, and many farm laborers. Be devout towards God and loving towards men and you will be saved.'
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 12:27-31, 13:1-8
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Matthew 10:1, 5-8
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND EDIFICATION
"Too much attention irritates children. Children should know that their parents love them, but the parents should not smother their children with love." (Geronda [Elder] Thaddeus of Vitovnica]
THE WITNESS TO A LIVING GOD
by Archimandrite George Capsanis, Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou, Mt. Athos.
"When the monk possesses the grace of repentance, he knows the True God, and not some idea of God."
The God of the Gospels is Immanuel; "God with us". He is with us and we are capable of experiencing Him. Our God is not the unapproachable god of the philosophers. He is not the 'absolute being' of Western scholasticism. Rather, He is God Who, while abiding unapproachable in His secret essence, yet comes forth out of Himself by His active will and infinite love, to meet and unite Himself with man. The distinction between God's hidden being and His active presence has always been maintained by the Orthodox Church. However, while it appears in the works of many holy Fathers, it was the Athonite Saint, Gregory Palamas, who first taught it systematically in the 14th century, in order to defend the reality of the Saints' experience of God as Light. Saint Gregory's teaching was quickly and formally accepted by the Church, who recognized in his writings its own faith. We feel it no exaggeration to say that this Saint's teaching is a great blessing for the world. Why? Because it insists that the believer, once having become cleansed of the passions and having become a participant in the Holy Mysteria (Sacraments), is capable of receiving a direct experience of God, of seeing the Uncreated Light of the Holy Trinity-the same Light which the Holy Apostles beheld at the Lord's transfiguration on Mount Tabor. (Matt. 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36)
God enters the world through His Uncreated Energies. He thus endows it with existence, preserves and directs it. He is present in His creation.
If however, God were essence, or being alone, without His Divine Energies, if grace were a created thing--as Western scholastics tell us--then man would be incapable of knowing Him directly, of seeing Him, of becoming a god himself, for a created thing (grace) cannot deify the creature (man). Neither can God Himself be present within creation, nor could He be personally at work within it. Just as the relentless laws of nature must replace an uncreated joy not present in nature, even so the absence of uncreated grace from the life of the Church and of Christians creates a need for an ethical and legal system whose head is the Pope.
A God Who does not deify man; such a God can have no interest for us, whether He exists or not. I believe that this goes far to explain the wave of atheism in the west, as well as the building of science and philosophy on an atheistic foundation. It is surely a sorry thing that we Orthodox also, influenced by Western Europe, are ignorant of an indeed sometimes even condemn Saint Gregory Palamas and other holy Fathers of the Church. This results in our substituting ethical conduct and a rationalistic idealist theology for the ascetic and pastoral Orthodox teaching of deification (theosis). The former approach leads to directly to an 'accidental Christianity' and finally to atheism.
Many of our young people, weary of both materialism and ideology, are seeing mystical experience either in the teaching of oriental religion or in the artificial paradise of drugs. Why this drift? Because they think that Orthodoxy is exclusively a matter of ceremonial and public declarations. They are ignorant of the Mystical and sober tradition of the Philokalia, of the prayer of the heart which affords believers entry into the experience of the divine: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Yet this way of prayer is still taught on Athos today. We know it as the way of revelation within the heart, within the centre of each person's being. It is a cleansing of the passions, a turning of the mind into the heart, the union of the heart and mind with Christ by which the union with God may afterward follow the witness of a way of life centered on the God-man, Christ.
Repentance and knowledge of the living God permit the Christian, and particularly the monk of Athos, to direct his freedom toward the actual center and source of life, the Triune God. If one would live not anthropocentrically but theocentrically, he must center his life on Christ.
When someone lives centered on God he lives 'eucharistically'. That is to say; he receives other people and the things of life as God's gift to his life. He gives both to the Lord with thanksgiving, in return offering his own self to God, to God's children. In the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist, which are the gifts of God, the Christian offers his whole self and world back to God. The bread and wine summarize what we are, and what we live by: 'Thine own of Thine own we offer to Thee, through all and for all.'
The Lord receives our gifts and offers us in return His Own Body and Blood, i.e., His Life. Thus the life of God becomes our life. As communicants of the Divine life, we are enabled to live authentically…truly spiritually.
God in Christ, Who is sacrificed and offered for us, gladdens the Christian as he partakes of the Holy Eucharist, and so He helps him to attain the divine 'likeness'--which is the sharing in Christ's sacrifice of love offered to His brethren. Therefore, to say that 'I live theocentrically', means that I live eucharistically, liturgically, ecclesiastically, sacrificially.
The mind of our present age is anthropocentric. It is thus neither Eucharistic, nor liturgical, nor sacrificial. It is not characterized by love of God or of brother, but only by a tenderness for one's own self. Our whole civilization is built upon self-love. It is natural, if Christians are influenced by this prevailing anthropocentricity, that they will live in a divided manner as a result. Sometimes they might behave 'religiously', (while they are attending Church services), but at other times (outside the Church building), they act as if they were indifferent to the Faith. Religiosity itself, the manner of Christian piety, departs from the traditional churchly and Orthodox way. It becomes instead individualistic. Sentimentality replaces sobriety. The liturgical life and worship of the Church are seen as something good but as of secondary importance. We come no longer to perceive that--outside the Liturgy and Church's worship--the world is incapable of being unified and transfigured in a newness of life. We attempt to replace the activity of God in the Church and her liturgical life with our own activity on behalf of the world, whether through social action or via political struggle. We try to make the Church an instrument for helping and improving the world, when in fact it is for the world to become the Church to be grafted into the Body of Christ, to die and so to be raised up.
We may be sure that behind this state of affairs lies our wish to be accepted by secularized society. The latter does accept, even applauds people of the Church, when they work according to the world's agenda instead of the Church.
Western humanism has altered the perception of many Orthodox people. So much is this so that we are no longer sensitive to the spiritual tradition of our God-bearing Fathers, of Monasticism, iconography, traditional chant, the lives of the Saints, architecture, the conciliar liturgy of the Church's body, the Holy Canons, the teachings, and the true piety of Orthodoxy. In this way, though, neither we nor the surrounding world are 'made Church'. Neither of us is saved: 'What is not assumed is not healed.' We remain scattered, and neither we nor the surrounding world live united in Christ. We do not know Him within ourselves.
By God's grace however, the Christocentric Tradition of the Church as life and way of life is preserved among the monks. The heart of the Tradition is the Holy Trinity in Christ. The purpose of the Tradition is union with God. And of life referred to and re-created in God.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God